A service dog can bring someone back from the deepest darkest places

Interview with a Wounded Warrior
Publ
ished in the DUTY issue

Will + Jack Daniels

Will dropped 30 feet, breaking his neck and both legs.

As you can imagine, he also hit his head, which resulted in a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). After 26 years in the navy, Will was injured on board the carrier USS Enterprise when a storm hit the ship as it was docked in Norfolk. He was crossing the brow as the ship pushed away from the pier when the brow collapsed. His right leg was crushed. After 20-some surgeries and four years later, he was still in constant pain and his mobility was severely limited—Will made the decision to have his leg amputated after watching the paralympics. He’d always been athletic and couldn’t play sports with his leg as it was. Will believes having his leg amputated was one of the best decisions he’s ever made, as it has opened up so many doors and let him re-engage in sports. But he is still left with both visible and invisible wounds.

Two years ago, Will was in Kentucky helping a farmer harvest tobacco to return a favor. On his way to the farm, he noticed a house with three German Shepherds in the yard. Will stopped in to meet them. “Jack was the first to come up and put his hands on my shoulders and lick me in the face.” Jack had been rescued from a situation where he was in a crate almost all day. Will asked the couple who rescued him if they minded if Jack rode to the farm with him. Will and Jack rode back and forth to the farm together for two weeks. After the two weeks, Will got the nerve to ask if Jack could spend the night. They said, absolutely! So Will and Jack watched movies together and hung out in Will’s RV. “He laid his head on my shoulder and that was it. We were bound at the heart from that point.”

Will adopted Jack and back home to Memphis the boys went together! During the time Jack was being trained at West Tennessee Canine to be a PTSD dog, his trainer found out that he also has the innate ability to alert to emotional situations. “Just today, we were in the gym and, although Jack was paying attention to me, he kept alerting to Paul, a fellow wounded warrior. He’d lift his head and just stare at Paul. He was saying, Dad … there’s something wrong with that guy. So, I took Jack over, and we found out he was having a bad day. Jack laid down next to Paul, put his head on his shoulder, and licked Paul’s face. Jack could sense the difference in emotion, and knew exactly what Paul needed.”

What does Jack mean to you?
Will became emotional and unable to speak for several moments when asked this question. “Jack means the difference between staying alive and not. He’s given me so much more than I’ve given him. He’s given me a reason to get up in the morning. He inspires me to get out and re-integrate into society. He’s become a permanent fixture in my heart. There’s no doubt about it—he saved my life.
Jack is with me 24/7. I feel like I’m not fully dressed if I don’t have him beside me. The psychological support and the friendship that he offers is incredibly satisfying. And to know he will take care of me and love me unconditionally is comforting.”

What do you wish people knew?
“I wish people knew how much service dogs mean to their owners—how in the darkest of times a service dog can convey love that can bring them back from the deepest darkest places. People need to know that a service dog isn’t a dog … but an extension of that human being’s persona. Service dog fraud upsets me. People who order a ten-dollar vest online just so they can take their dog with them places invalidates the reason behind the program.”

When are you most proud of Jack?
“Every day of my life. Just to see his calming nature and to see what he can do for myself and others—he came from being a farm dog to an instrument in saving lives.”

When are you most proud of yourself?
Will struggled to try and talk through strong emotion, “Every day that I can wake up and realize that I came close several times to not being here, and realizing that I’m far stronger than I gave myself credit. Each day that we face a new day, we get stronger and are better because of it. I can’t let my injury define me. I may have to put parts on in the morning, but I’m still the same guy they rolled into the ER. It’s not how hard you fall … it’s what you do when you stand back up that makes a difference. •

If you’d like to volunteer your time locally in training a puppy for a Wounded Warrior, please contact K9 for Warriors—they’re looking for puppy-raisers! Please share these stories to educate those around you about the different needs a service dog may provide for visible or invisible wounds.

 

Dearest Romeo

Published in the PATIO issue
/ Written by Betsy Marquez / Photos supplied by Betsy Marquez

 

December 10, 2019
Dearest Romeo! I was brought to tears in meeting you—you’re in probably one of the worst conditions I’ve ever seen. I have so many questions! Were you a stray for long? Did you have owners and were just not cared for? Did they just watch you decline medically and not do anything? Could they not afford the care? Did they drop you off somewhere? Let’s face it—none of those questions matter, because I’ll never have the answers. All I know was that I could not leave you alone in a shelter for your remaining days.

Bone cancer, heartworms, and whatever other diagnosis there was in those big words … I couldn’t think of anything I wanted to do more than to open my already fragile heart to give you the very best of a loving, caring, warm, comfy, quiet, boring home life for your remaining days. I’m bringing you home not knowing how many days you have left. Will it be weeks? Will it be days? Might it just be over night? It really didn’t matter to me. I got the green light from Clay County Animal Services—you are coming home with me. Was this in my plan? No. But sometimes you just do what’s right and being there for you is just that.

Romeo you, Sir, have been such a love! You seek out a gentle touch. You like to walk around the yard, then stop and take it all in, looking around. You constantly look for me if I’m out of sight. You follow me around the house like the Velcro pup that you are. You love your crate with the oversized bed, and soft music playing in the background. Unlimited treats for you, love.

Just know this, Romeo—your remaining days will be some of the very best days of your life. When your time comes, you’ll be surrounded by those who love you. Your life matters.

December 13, 2019
The last 24 hours have been pure bliss. ROMEO—this 12-year-old throw-away hound is living his best life.

 

December 16, 2019
Dearest Romeo! I sit here watching you sleep and listening to you breathe … my heart is both full and broken at the very same time.

December 22, 2019
Last night, just before midnight Romeo crossed the rainbow bridge.

Dearest Romeo, yesterday was just short two weeks since I brought you home. You were only supposed to be a three-day hospice foster, but the veterinarian thought that you were well enough to make it through the holidays. As everyone can see, you had a huge mass on your face. You had a VERY mean and fast growing tumor in your nasal cavity. In spite of that monster, you were free of cancer mentally and in your spirit and heart. You were such a loving, happy, attention-seeking, leaf-rolling, back-scratching, treat-finding, always hungry, Velcro pup. You loved sleeping in the living room on your new blanket. You loved being in the back yard, rolling around smelling the air and watching people walk by. Most of all, you loved being loved by foster momma and brother.

Yesterday you had such a good day. You slept in just a little, till 6:30 am. You ate breakfast, went out in the yard for a bit, and back to bed. I went out in the living room with you and watched you sleep. Your foster brother had been sleeping on the couch for two weeks, so you weren’t alone out there.

I ran an errand and brought back Zaxbys—I think you ate more than I did. After dinner, more yard time and some good rolling around in the leaves. Then some good love from foster brother when he got home from work.

When our friend Lisa got here, we got you up and almost immediately noticed a little blood from your eye—still, you were your happy self meeting a new friend. But we couldn’t make it stop. We kept wiping the blood with a wet paper towel, as we didn’t want to irritate your eye with a harsh dry one. We thought taking you to the vet would be a good idea so they could do something and you’d be back home.
But your tumor had ruptured. And I wasn’t ready.

When we made the decision, you were surrounded by love. You spent your last days in a home being our family member. We only had you in our lives two short weeks, but in that time you made such an impact. Losing my three-year-old grandson just months ago has my heart already in pieces. My heart is shattered making that call for you, dearest Romeo. I have absolutely no regrets being your hospice foster. I’d do it again in a heartbeat.

Run free sweet boy. I love you, dearest Romeo.
Your life mattered.
Love, Momma

If you are thinking about fostering—don’t debate. Please don’t make excuses. Do it!
“I don’t have room.” I live in 800 square-foot home with my 22-year-old son and my other dogs.
“It’s too sad!!” If you know me… you know that my heart is extremely fragile these days. It’s not about me, although I do have to say … Romeo made my heart so happy.
“But my dogs aren’t friendly.” I shuffle. It’s only as hard as you make it. A little bit of work? Yes, but so worth it.

There are a ton of dogs at the shelter, and a heartbreaking amount of seniors!
Please consider fostering. It will change the life of an animal, and, trust me, it will also change yours. •

 

 

Fostering Hope – Cover Story

 

Published in the PATIO issue
/ Written by Lea Guedin / Photos by Woof Creative Photography

See Hope’s full photoshoot!

Becoming a foster mom to Hope saved my life, as much as it did hers. She came to me at a time when I needed her more than she needed me. After a traumatic accident at work, I was horribly depressed, not getting out of bed, not getting out of the house, not doing the things that normally brought me happiness. I felt very alone.

One Sunday afternoon, I was scrolling through Instagram when I came across a post from Fur Sisters about becoming a foster parent. I was feeling incredibly depressed that day, and deep down I knew fostering a dog was exactly what I needed. I’d fostered a few years before through a different organization, and when I tried to foster through them again, I was unable to be connected with a dog for over two years and I’d gotten frustrated. I got a call from Fur Sisters the day after filling out my foster application, and I was thrilled the process was moving along so quickly—I needed it to. I could tell by the way Channing from Fur Sisters spoke to me during our call that her heart was completely dedicated to rescuing dogs, and that I wanted to foster a dog with the Fur Sisters organization.

Channing texted me a few pictures of other dogs, but when I saw Hope’s picture I completely melted. I knew she was the dog I wanted to take care of. She looked like a tiny, sick grey hippopotamus who desperately needed a safe and loving home. I knew agreeing to become her foster mom was going to be risky, as Hope had suffered through an abusive situation and she only had a 50/50 chance of survival.
She’d been found abandoned—with a tumor the size of a baseball—at the dead-end of a road. It was obvious her previous owner had been using her for backyard breeding, and had attempted to give her a hack c-section without the proper medication or tools. The c-section wound didn’t heal properly, and it started pushing Hope’s intestines outside of her body, which caused a large tumor to form on her lower stomach, putting Hope’s health in great danger. Hope’s case was so severe she needed to go into surgery immediately if she was going to live. Channing reassured me that Fur Sisters would give me everything I needed to care for Hope, and they’d would be there to support us every step of the way.

I agreed that if Hope made it out of surgery I’d be her foster mama and see her through the recovery and through heartworm treatment. This was the absolute best decision I could’ve made. The way Hope accepted my help with so much love after all the abuse she’d endured was so inspiring to me. On so many occasions I thought, If Hope can make it through her trauma then I can make it through mine.

Becoming Hope’s foster mom has given me so much purpose, responsibility, and most of all, unconditional love. She’s brought me back to life and reconnected me to the simple things that matter—like kindness and love. I know that we were sent to each other for a reason.

Taking care of her hasn’t always been easy, but I love Hope so much, and seeing her recovery has been deeply rewarding. The days following surgery, Hope’s health was touch and go, and there were times I didn’t know if she was going to make it through the night. But, after a couple weeks of recovering and lots of love, Hope is now playing, cuddling, and sometimes so full of energy I can barely keep up with her! She will start her heartworm treatment soon, and once again I’m praying this miraculous little dog to make it through another challenge. She has so much love and support around her, I just hope she makes it through so she can live in a forever home where she is truly loved and appreciated!

Fur Sisters and Bluestar hospital have been so supportive of us and given Hope and I everything we need to make her recovery possible. They’ve delivered kennels, sheets, toys, food, and medicine to my door and I have never felt alone in this journey. If you are thinking about fostering a dog I would encourage you to contact Fur Sisters because there are so many other dogs—most of which have no medical issues—who need to be loved and protected. I am beyond grateful for my little Hippo. She’s everything I could have wanted in a companion and I am honored to be her foster mom! •

When you foster for Fur Sisters, everything is taken care of! Fill out the application today:
fursisters.org/foster

Should you bring your dog … just because you can?

/ Published in Unleash Jacksonville The FREEDOM  issue, written by Kate Godfrey, owner Comprehensive Canine Training

There are many reasons why people are bringing their dogs to more “human” events—it can be really fun to have your dog with you, for one! However, it’s important to learn how to read your dog’s subtle signals so that you aren’t unknowingly putting them in a situation that stresses them out.

Not all people do well in crowded places with lots of activity and noise, and the same goes for our dogs. Maybe you have a dog that wouldn’t be comfortable at a concert, festival, or sporting event, but may enjoy a less busy venue like a coffee shop patio, low-key restaurant patio, or park.

If your dog is sensitive to sounds and noise, consider that when planning an outing. Some dogs are sensitive to motion—think children playing, bikes, skateboards, or running humans. Don’t put your dog into situations in which they can’t cope. You don’t want to go full-hog and expose this type of dog to such things (this is called “flooding” and is not a sound training method). Take the time to figure out what outings your dog might enjoy, and respect them.

How do you know if your dog is comfortable?
The dog’s body language will give you all sorts of clues as to their comfort level—the more you get to know your dog, the better you’ll be at picking up the subtle and not-so-subtle messages he sends you.

Signs of canine fear, anxiety, and stress include but are not limited to: Lip licking, tail tucking, turning their head away from stressful stimuli, yawning, lifting a front paw, trembling, wet dog shaking when the dog is not wet or dirty, scratching, sniffing around, excessive salivation/drooling, nose dripping, hackles up, half-moon/whale eye (google that!), refusal to take treats or play with a toy they otherwise love, actively trying to leave the situation, hiding under a table or behind you, and paw sweating. Paw sweating is real. If you take your dog somewhere and see that they’re leaving paw prints on the floor, do them a favor and get them to a space where they’re more comfortable. The behaviors listed above can be thought of as “whispers” in which a dog is quietly telling you—and other dogs—that they’re in distress.

More obvious signs of fear, anxiety, and stress are: Growling, baring teeth, snarling, snapping, and actually biting. A dog doing anything on this list is no longer whispering, it’s shouting, please, please, I need my space—I am warning you! Of note, it’s a bad idea to punish a dog for growling—growling is a warning that should be heeded. Growling is what a dog will resort to when the subtle signs of distress have been ignored or disregarded. If you punish a growl, you’ll create a dog that no longer gives a warning. Instead, interrupt what is happening and get the dog to a place it’s more comfortable. If you need more help, consult with a trainer that practices modern, science-based training methods that do not endorse the use of force, fear, pain, or dominance theory.

A wagging tail isn’t always indicative of a happy dog. Take a look at what the dog’s body, ears, eyes, and mouth are doing. A loose and relaxed body along with the ears in their natural position and an open mouth are good indicators of a relaxed dog. A tight body, closed mouth, ears back, hackles up, and laser-focused stare can be signs that things are not going so well. Redirect the dog’s attention and get them back to a state of comfort, this may require leaving the situation, depending on the dog.

This applies not only to dog outings but to training as well. There’s no sense forcing a dog to try to train or do an activity if it’s frightened or above threshold. No good learning can take place under these circumstances. Now, there is a difference between a dog that is cautious and a dog that is afraid. A cautious dog will likely do some investigating and may overcome its initial aversion, while a dog that is afraid shouldn’t be forced to “suck it up” with the flooding technique mentioned before. Forcing a dog to endure something it’s afraid of is equivalent to forcing some who’s terrified of snakes to hold one.

Manage how people interact with your dog.
I always tell clients, This is your dog, you get to dictate how and IF people interact with your dog. There’s nothing wrong with a polite no thank you, or, we’re in training, please give us space, if someone asks to pet your dog or if they want their dog to say “hello” to your dog. Their dog may be friendly, but if you or your dog are uncomfortable it can be risky. Emotions travel down the leash—if you’re tense and not breathing, you’d better believe that canine at the other end of the leash knows about it.

When out and about with your dog, please remember that you are in charge of keeping them comfortable and safe, and that may differ from what you want them to do. If if you notice signs of anxiety or if someone can’t follow the rules of interacting with your dog, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with exiting the situation. Your dog will let you know if they want to engage and if they don’t—but you need to pay attention and respect their body language and warning signals. If you do, outings with your dogs will be fun for both of you! •

Kate Godfrey, ABCDT, is the owner of Comprehensive Canine Training, LLC, and a major advocate for using science-backed, force-free methods.
www.comprehensivecaninetraining.com
(904) 236-3780

Reinforce the Good

/ Published in Unleash Jacksonville The NEW issue, written by Kate Godfrey, owner Comprehensive Canine Training

In 2020, I’d like to change the misconception some may have that positive reinforcement/force-free training is a free-for-all for the dog with no boundaries that relies on bribery. This could not be further from the truth. Positive reinforcement dog training is based on rewarding the behavior you do want. The aim is to make training quick, effective, and pleasant for both parties.

It’s simple—rewarded behavior continues—you get more of what you reinforce.

Part of good training relies on setting the scene up so the dog is highly likely to be successful, instead of putting the dog in a situation in which it’s over threshold, not likely to learn what you want, and ultimately setting them up for failure and punishment.

We control so many aspects of our dog’s world, that preventing unwanted behavior and setting the dog up to succeed is usually rather simple. This is called management—prevent the dog from rehearsing the undesirable behavior by controlling the environment.

Positive reinforcement training isn’t all about rewards. There are boundaries and consequences for making the wrong choice, but these consequences need not be painful or scary. A consequence can be positive, as a means for the dog to gain access to what it wants, or negative in the loss of the opportunity to gain access to what it wants.

All good relationships are built on trust. Trust is earned, it’s not given. By training with positive reinforcement, the dog is taught to trust the handler rather than fear the handler. We give the dog a choice by teaching the appropriate behavior from the start, rather than waiting for them to screw up and implement a punishment that is painful or scary.

Rather than going on and on about what you don’t want the dog to do, answer this question: “What do I want the dog to do instead?” This gives you the power and the opportunity to get what you want. If you can’t determine what it is you’d like the dog to do, imagine how frustrated the dog must be.

With this shift in mindset, you start seeing the opportunities to reinforce the dog for the behaviors you like and ways to prevent the unwanted behavior from occurring. When you start reinforcing the behavior you want, you can expect the dog to start offering more of it. •

/ comprehensivecaninetraining.com

Resolution: Ditch the Retractable

/ Published in The NEW Issue, Written by Connie Cannaday of the London Sanctuary

May 18, 2019, is a day that will be marked in my mind forever. Very early that morning, I got a call that no rescuer or pet owner would ever want to receive—a puppy under our care was found deceased on the side of the road. She’d gone missing from a sleepover with a potential adopter not 24 hours prior, and we’d been looking for her until late in the night. There’d been not so much as a sighting of this sweet girl since the first hour she disappeared. I was absolutely crushed. I’d certainly hoped to be bringing her back with us to The London Sanctuary that day, just not in this way. My husband and I went to Jacksonville to retrieve her little body.

In rescue you experience quite a bit of loss, but this was quite devastating. She was a beautiful, healthy, 5-month-old puppy who’d left on an adoption trial one Saturday, and a week later, when we should have been finalizing her adoption, we were picking her up to take to the vet for cremation. Cassandra was born in my home and lived with us for over five months. Now she was gone forever, and the reason was frustratingly simple—a leash that failed.

A brand new retractable leash that failed. I’m sure many families have used these without issue, but this time, this one failed. I didn’t like these leashes prior to this happening, but I didn’t do enough to educate the potential adopters, or this wouldn’t have happened. I want to be very careful in how I say this, because under no circumstances do I want the family to feel any more guilt than they already do. If you aren’t entrenched in animal welfare, the dangers are not common knowledge—many people still use retractables. And, for whatever reason, they are still sold in stores. I’ve even used them before I knew better. But I’ve made it my mission to help educate people about the dangers—to both humans and dogs—that can happen as a result of using these leashes.

Sweet Cassandra

Cuts, burns, or amputations of human fingers are very common dangers. Yes, I said common, and I said amputations. There’s even warning label on most of these about that very thing. Additionally, innocent bystanders can also become injured if the dog suddenly sees something and gets the leash entangled with a person, which can happen easily when a dog extends and you don’t have control—retractable leashes give you very little control, despite what you might think.

Some of the dangers to your dog can include: Injuries to legs (entanglement), injuries to backs and necks similar to whiplash when the human has to react quickly to a dog that has become hard to control. Dogs have been hit by cars after extending the leash too far. In Cassandra’s case, the leash fully extended and snapped, even though it was rated for her small size. Much of the problem is the lack of control these leashed offer—trainers do not recommend them for this very reason—the lack of control over your dog is just not safe.

To honor Cassandra, The London Sanctuary has rolled out a program to provide community members with durable regular leashes in exchange for their retractable ones. For this, we will have partnered with Max and Neo, who has donated the first batch, as well Brook from Troop 451 who experienced her own injury from one of these leashes.

We’re making this resolution easy on you! Stop by any of the exchange locations and let’s give your pup a new leash on life for 2020! •

Exchange your retractable leash for free at the following locations:

Arlington
Jax Biker Gear
1301-4 Monument Road (44.36 mi)
Jacksonville, 32225

Atlantic beach
American Well & Irrigation, Inc.
1651 Mayport Rd
Atlantic Beach, 32233

Bryceville
All Paws Pet Boarding and Day Care
8356 US Highway 301
Bryceville, 32009

Jax Beach
Beach Bark
2185 3rd Street South
Jacksonville Beach, 32250

Julington Creek/Fruit Cove
Jen Kespohl, Round Table Realty
1637 Race Track Road
Jacksonville, 32259

Lakewood/Mandarin
Central Bark Jacksonville
5614 San Jose Boulevard
Jacksonville, 32207

Middleburg
Homemade Hounds Bed & Biscuit
3450 County Rd 220
Middleburg, 32068

NAS Jax
Accu-Air Cooling Services
8544 Alicanta Ave.
Jacksonville, 32244

Westside
Star Nails and Hair
4819 San Juan Avenue
Jacksonville, 32210

Would your business like to be a leash exchange location?
Please contact The London Sanctuary!

 

 

THE TRUTH: I used to work in a store that sold puppies …

/ Published in The NEW Issue, Written by Anonymous

I can remember how excited I was when I got a job at a pet store. Like most, I thought it would be so fun—playing with puppies all day! It didn’t take long to realize it’s not fun at all, but extremely heartbreaking. Almost every single puppy that came through the store suffered from a respiratory illness at least once while it was there. Many came in already sick from being on a truck with hundreds of other puppies in filthy conditions with little food or fresh water until they got to their destination. These tiny beings would have so much poop stuck to their little behinds and all of the lighter colored ones would have urine stains.

We were taught to tell people about the loving responsible breeders that we were getting our puppies from. We never saw the actual parents of these pups, and even when we got them locally they would usually be covered in fleas and full of worms at the very least. There was the man who would bring tiny sick pups to us covered in burns from the generator outside his trailer. The couple who brought in Chihuahuas that had deformed legs that we’d send back and tell her not to breed them and we knew she would if she didn’t sell them.

Then there was the mange that would flare up so bad from these babies being so stressed that their eyes would swell shut, and the smell of parvovirus that would make us all scared to go home and touch our own dogs before we scrubbed ourselves.

I know this first hand, because I’ve experienced it behind the scenes—pet stores don’t make a profit off of well-bred dogs and that’s the bottom line. They get cheap puppies they can mark up and market as designer breeds because purebred dogs that are registered and have health testing done aren’t cheap. One little pup was returned to us because she needed a surgery for something that was missed when she went to the vet for her health certificate. The family couldn’t afford it and the store owner wouldn’t help pay for it but happily gave them another puppy because that was much cheaper and easier. I can remember we all wanted to steal her while she sat waiting for the company that she was purchased from to come pick her up. She was surely either euthanized or used to breed instead of living a healthy life with a loving family. That wasn’t the only instance that happened, just the first I had to see. My heart broke for every one that sat in those little containers and didn’t get a home right away—months of not getting to run and play and be loved by a family. I didn’t want to think about what the parents of all these dogs were enduring because it had to be so much worse. We’ve seen the hoarding cases over and over on the news. It’s easy to justify buying the cute puppy from the store when they all just need a home though, right? •

A note from the publisher: Be Better
^^ I so appreciate the former puppy store employee writing that article. Many places make their employees sign a non-disclosure agreement so they’re afraid to tell people what they’ve seen, but it’s important to have all the correct information when making decisions.
I’m sure you’re a lovely person who regularly crouches down to pet dogs, and doesn’t knowingly want to support any kind of cycle of suffering. You might not yet know that responsible breeders would never sell their puppies to stores or to the first person who shows up with cash—they have a process to keep their puppies healthy and safe. But … NOW YOU KNOW, my dear. Too often, a kind person like yourself unwittingly ends up buying a puppy mill pup. True, it’s hard to tell the difference, as they’re the same level of cute as other puppies, and when the store clerk tells you it came from a “good” place (and may have papers to make it look like they do)—why wouldn’t you believe them? According to the Humane Society of the United States “Most pet stores do not disclose the true origins of their puppies, instead using deceptive sales pitches about ‘USDA licensed’ or ‘professional’ breeders.”

I, of course, always encourage people to adopt—it’s the best! You can find pure-bred dogs and puppies in shelters and rescues, but maybe you don’t really need a purebred? There are major benefits to having a mixed breed.
If you’ve checked shelters and rescue groups and still haven’t found the right pup, you should ask for referrals from your veterinarian, or contact local breed clubs. Always always visit where the puppy is born and raised. Personally go to a breeder’s facility before committing to a puppy—don’t rely on website or emailed photographs. Take the time now to find the right breeder and you’ll thank yourself for the rest of your dog’s life.

What happens if you go ahead and buy that store puppy? Several things: You create a demand for more. You become part of an inhumane cycle of greed. Many other dogs suffer in puppy mills across the United States and in hands of backyard breeders. We have to speak with our wallets—this is NOT OKAY. Please think beyond the cute factor, be strong, and be better. Walk away. •

Download The Humane Society’s “How to Identify a Responsible Breeder” Guide

RESOLUTION: No more Riding in the Back!

/ Published in The NEW Issue Written by Jerr Blinkster

Buster is my BOY! He’s my sidekick—he goes everywhere with me. It’s always been just easier for Buster to jump into the back of the truck when we go places. It’s cleaner, too. I don’t want dog hair in my purty F150. He always did whine a bit, because he wanted to be with me in the cab, but he also loves the wind in his jowls.

But, listen guys, I was driving over the intercoastal a couple weeks back behind a truck with a dog in the bed and I saw something I can’t unsee—I’m a big hairy man and it made me ball like a baby. The truck had to swerve suddenly and the black lab skittered across the truck bed, over the side and onto the bridge. The truck wasn’t even going to stop because the driver didn’t realize they’d just unwittingly killed their dog. After I saw that, I did a little research and learned something staggering—according to the American Veterinary Medical Association, it’s estimated that around 100,000 dogs every year are fatally injured by jumping or falling from a pickup truck’s cargo area. Yikes man. Buster could become startled, see something tempting, like a squirrel or a hamburger, and jump out of my truck! He could be injured by the fall or struck by oncoming vehicles (and potentially cause an accident and injuries to other drivers). I thought about just tethering him with a leash, but according to the American Humane Society, many dogs have been strangled when tossed or bumped over the side of the truck and been left helplessly dangling.

Here’s another concern of mine, living in Florida—the galldang heat! The floor of a truck bed can become VERY hot, I’ve seen Buster dancing around back there, but figured his paws were like shoes. They’re NOT! He could get horribly burned and we’d have to take him to the emergency room. I’d feel like a real bad dad. I can’t stand to see Buster in pain.

One last reason that I’m resolving to keep Buster in the cab with me from now on—as if I needed another—I have a lead foot. That’s right. I like to drive real fast. A truck traveling at high rates of speed can kick up small pebbles and other road debris, which could strike my boy, Buster. He could lose one of his big brown eyes or worse. That would just about kill me.

Buster is a dog, but he’s also my best sidekick. The last thing I want is to see is him hurt just because I didn’t want a little dirt in my sweet F150. You got a truck, too? Save everyone a bit of heartbreak and make this resolution with me. •

The Gift of a Beautiful Good-bye

Sweet Sisters. Bella saying good-bye to Sophie.

/ #25 Trippin’ Issue
By Doryan Cawyer, owner,  Jade Paws

I arrived for Sophie’s last session with a heavy heart. While I was happy to see her and baby sister Bella, I knew this would be the last time we’d all be together. Her family and I had scheduled this Reiki session with the purpose of helping Sophie pass away peacefully, surrounded by the beautiful love she’d known her whole life.

I’d been sharing Reiki and TTouch with Sophie twice a month for the last year to help relieve the discomfort of degenerative arthritis and hip dysplasia. Sophie’s family had tried many things to ease her pain, including laser therapy and Adequan injections from her veterinarian, various joint supplements, and massage and Reiki. Despite all this wonderful effort, her condition continued to deteriorate. Eventually, Sophie stopped meeting me at the front door for our sessions. Her family bought her a hip harness so they could help her up and down on rough days. One day, her back legs slipped on the tile floor and she fell down so hard that she couldn’t get up at all. Her family contacted me and asked for an emergency Reiki session. They had also contacted Lap of Love for an in-home consultation after our Reiki session to see if it was time to let Sophie go. Her family adored her, but they didn’t want her to be in any more pain. But Sophie had other plans. She had a miraculous semi-recovery the night before Lap of Love arrived, and she was able to walk and move around again. We all agreed she wasn’t quite ready to go that day, but we also knew that she would be ready soon.

I believe Sophie felt that her family just needed a little more time with her. Sophie’s human dad had just retired and could be with her 24/7 to help her get around. We increased the frequency of her Reiki sessions to keep her comfortable, and after each session we talked about how Sophie would let us know when she was ready. The decision to let a pet go is a heavy burden for any parent, and Sophie’s family wanted to be sure they were doing what was best for her. We also started including younger dog, Bella, in the Reiki sessions to help her prepare for Sophie’s passing.

One night, Sophie’s dad awoke in the middle of the night to find Sophie sitting next to his bed, just staring at him. She’d never done this before. Her dad felt that Sophie was saying, “Ok Dad, now I’m ready.”

We scheduled one last Reiki session with the purpose of helping Sophie pass away surrounded by love and in a state of peace. Lap of Love was asked to help Sophie cross over after our session.

Bella taking in reiki and letting go of Sophie

So I arrived that day with a heavy heart. Although Sophie had long since ceased to meet me at the door, on that day, even Bella didn’t give me her usual boisterous greeting. Sophie was lying in the kitchen, sternal-looking out the window and panting. I prepared our space as usual with healing frequency music and a veterinarian-approved calming blend of essential oils in the diffuser. Upon allowing Reiki to flow, Sophie immediately relaxed. Her breathing became slower and calmer, she laid her head down, and her panting stopped. Over the last year, we’d come to laugh about how silly Bella would nonchalantly sneak away from her mom’s lap to lie next to Sophie or lick my face to soak up her share of the energy. However, today Bella chose to lie down a few feet away as her family and I surrounded Sophie with love and Reiki. Bella knew that today was different, and that it was all about Sophie. I paused the flow of Reiki a few times to check in with Sophie and her family, and each time we paused, Sophie would become alert and her panting would begin again. I decided to allow Reiki to flow for her uninterrupted until the veterinarian from Lap of Love arrived. At this point, Bella came over to lie next to Sophie, but without interfering in the session. Then she moved to lie as close to me as possible, again without trying to take my attention away from Sophie. Dr. Jessica McAlpin with Lap of Love arrived and gently prepared us for the next phase of Sophie’s passing. We all lovingly placed our hands on Sophie and told her how much we loved her. We thanked her for all the love and lessons she’d shared with us. I continued to allow Reiki to flow as Dr. McAlpin administered a sedative to help Sophie relax followed by the euthanasia solution.

Sophie passed away peacefully and quietly, surrounded by immense love. She was no longer in pain. Many tears were (and continue to be) shed, as Sophie is greatly missed.
I was honored and thankful to be part of the love that surrounded Sophie when she most needed it, and I’d like to thank Dr. McAlpin for the beautiful service that she and (all the wonderful doctors at Lap of Love) provide. Her kind and loving manner helped to make Sophie’s transition peaceful. Of course, we’re sad to let our beloved pets go. But the experience doesn’t have to be filled with fear and anxiety—for our pets or us. Calmly helping our pets pass in peace is one of the greatest final acts of love we can give them. •

Doryan Cawyer, owner of Jade Paws, is a Certified Canine Massage Therapist and Reiki practitioner in Jacksonville.

/ jadepaws.com

4 Things not to say to someone who’s fostering an animal

/ Published in the TRIPPIN’ Issue

by Karen Camerlengo

 

Fostering means bringing in a cat or dog—or parrot, horse, baby pig, or any other homeless pet—with the goal of nurturing them for a while until a permanent home can be found. Foster parents are an amazing and integral part of a system that saves lives.

Sometimes people unwittingly say things that aren’t supportive to the end goal of fostering. Here are a couple of things I (and other foster parents) routinely hear that are just not helpful:

You can’t give him up, he LOVES you!
Of course he does. I’m totally awesome. But you know what? He’s gonna love the person who adopts him even more.

She thinks she is HOME.
Yup. She does. And yes she looks happy. Considering where she just came from, she thinks she’s in Heaven. But she’s not home—yet. We’re working on it.

You HAVE to keep him!
No I don’t. Listen, every single animal that comes in my house is in danger of being kept by me; the lucky ones get adopted out. Truly, anyone who fosters is aware that they are going to fall in love, but we don’t take them in to keep them—we take them to help the transition to a better life. No amount of pressure from friends can make us want to keep an animal that does not fit into the family or the plan. Pet ownership and increasing the numbers is a serious consideration and one we don’t take lightly. If I were to make a foster a permanent family member, that would mean one less foster family in the system, because I can have only so many dogs in my home.

They LOVE each other!
(Said in reference to seeing the foster animal and resident dog/cat playing together or snuggling). Ummmm—yeah not so much. I took this picture so you would find my foster totally adorable. I can’t tell you about the baby gates or the crates or the fighting or the infighting in my own animals because you would think it’s the foster dog causing the problem. My dogs are being jerks but I can’t tell you any of it because the foster dog is super sweet and that’s what you need to know.

Helpful things you CAN say:
• She’s adorable—tell me more about her so I can share!
• Oh I have a friend looking for a dog, let me share!
• I’ll share!
• Thank you for fostering.

A note about social media
Foster parents post their furry temporary house guests on social media because we need your help finding them a forever home. We also want to show them off because, let’s face it, they are the cutest animals eve—but we really are hoping you will be so moved that you will share.
Foster animals are some of the best animals to share, as potential adopters can learn how they are with other animals, kids, etc. They can learn about the quirks and the skills. Foster dogs are so awesome—I hope you will feel inspired to share. •

Would YOU like to foster? All expenses are taken care of—you just need to provide love and a safe space. Please reach out to Animal Care and Protective Services, The Jacksonville Humane Society, or a reputable local rescue group!